June 7th, 2011
06:42 AM GMT
(CNN) – Spanish produce growers lost an estimated $600 million in exports last week after erroneous claims from Germany that the deadly outbreak of E. coli emanated from Spanish-grown cucumbers.
Even as the all-clear has sounded, Spanish exports remain hard hit by the claims - and Spanish exporters are seeking compensation.
The outbreak of the virulent strain of E. coli has infected more than 2,200 people in at least 12 countries, European health authorities said Sunday.
All but one of the 22 fatalities were reported in Germany, where officials said it was not clear whether the outbreak had peaked. One person died in Sweden after visiting Germany.
Last week, Spain rejected suggestions that its cucumbers could have been the source after the European Food Safety Alert Network said E. coli bacteria were found in organic cucumbers originating from Spain, packaged in Germany and distributed to various countries.
Authorities initially called for the cucumbers to be pulled from sale.
Germany later said Spanish produce was not the source of the infection, and Spanish farmers are now demanding hundreds of millions of euros in compensation.
Jose Maria Pozancos, the head of the Spanish fresh produce exporters group Fepex, said he wants Germany to apologize, reimburse Spanish farmers at least 400 million euros ($584 million) for their losses, and help Spain repair damaged consumer confidence.
Spanish produce exporters have seen a 40% decline in demand since the crisis began, Pozancos said.
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